Another treat today brought to us by Jodi and Robyn from WOW-Women On Writing. Today we are meeting an incredible, courageous and amazing author as she visits and tells us a about her new book, a memoir. Not only is she stopping by to talk about her latest book, BUT, she has graciously offered to extend her visit by responding to your comments and/or answering your questions. So I ask that you help me give, Ms. Tracy Seeley, a very warm welcome to the CMash blog.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With a Ph.D. in British Literature, Tracy Seeley teaches literature and creative nonfiction at the University of San Francisco. She can claim 26 addresses as her own including towns all across the midwest, Dallas, Austin, New Haven, Los Angeles, Caracas, Budapest, and Barcelona. When not tracking down Kansas addresses that no longer exist, Tracy Seeley lives in Oakland with her filmmaker husband, Frederick Marx. In an attempt to put down roots she has started a vegetable garden and is considering buying chickens.
The only thing more jarring than hearing the words “You’ve Got Breast Cancer,” may be hearing “You’ve Got Cancer…Again.”
When it happened to me, I’d had four great post-cancer years. The intense, life-changing months of my initial diagnosis, surgery, chemo, radiation, and months of recovery had all receded to a pinpoint in the rear view mirror. My life had been remade by those months, and then I’d moved on. During those four years, I’d started writing My Ruby Slippers, I’d made several trips back to Kansas to gather more material, a long-term relationship had ended, and I’d joyfully gotten married again.
It’s not like I assumed it wouldn’t happen. Anyone who’s had cancer never forgets: despite everything you and your doctors do the first time, you know that the next routine check-up, blood test or scan could bring bad news. In my case, a little voice whispered in my ear nearly every day. “Death,” it would whisper. Or, “Cancer.” Those little reminders jolted me awake, and awake was how I wanted to live.
To be awake. I’d learned the importance of that during my first round of treatment, when I took a class on mindfulness meditation. The idea of mindfulness is to simply be fully aware, present and attentive to whatever’s happening at the moment. To make that kind of living a habit, I practiced formally every day, which is really quite simple: sit quietly, eyes closed, observing your breath, in…out. And observe whatever thoughts float through your mind, but instead of holding on to them or dwelling on them, let them float away.
That simple act of paying attention can be one of the hardest things to do. But when I sat in meditation every day, the awareness I practiced there carried over into the rest of my life. I could be fully awake to washing the dishes, or waking up, or walking down the stairs. And I could be fully awake to my emotions. So when that little voice piped up, “Cancer,” or “Death,” I learned to recognize and say hello to the fear or sadness, then let them float away.
Concentrating on breathing in…and out…teaches us that like the breath, the past moment is over, the future hasn’t arrived. The only life we have is now. So being awake means that at your best and most fully aware, you don’t miss a single moment of your precious life. You learn to recognize and let go not only of the moment, but of hurt feelings and anger and all the other things that can keep us stuck in moods that keep us down or carry us away. Being awake helped me let go of fear.
The state of living fully awake brought a lot of equilibrium into my life during my first cancer treatment. Very little rattled me, even in tough times. Four years later, when the bad news came, I have to confess that it took me awhile to find my balance again. But meditating on my breath in order to be fully awake, helped me find peace again. So every day now, five years after hearing, “You’ve got cancer again,” I just keep breathing. And as long as I can do that…in and out…every day continues to count.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Sure, there’s no place like home—but what if you can’t really pinpoint where home is? By the time she was nine, Tracy Seeley had lived in seven towns and thirteen different houses. Her father’s dreams of movie stardom, stoked by a series of affairs, kept the family on edge, and on the move, until he up and left. Thirty years later, settled in what seems like a charmed life in San Francisco, a diagnosis of cancer and the betrayal of a lover shake Seeley to her roots—roots she is suddenly determined to search out. My Ruby Slippers tells the story of that search, the tale of a woman with an impassioned if vague sense of mission: to find the meaning of home.
Watch the trailer:
THANKS TO JODI AND THE FANTASTIC PEOPLE AT WOW,
I HAVE ONE COPY OF THIS AMAZING MEMOIR TO GIVE AWAY.